Wednesday, August 5, 2015
Foundations of Anthroposophy. Our relation to the universe; falling asleep and waking up
Foundations of Anthroposophy. Lecture 1 of 3.
Rudolf Steiner, Christiania, Norway, November 28, 1921:
I wish to give you in three lectures a survey of what Anthroposophy has to say concerning the human being and his relation to the universe. The universe and man are undoubtedly the two most important problems, for they embrace every question dealing with science and life, every problem of greatest and smallest importance.
It lies in the nature of these problems that in regard to these things I must limit myself to the anthroposophical horizon, that is to say, to the things connected with the great life-problems of human existence which transcend the knowledge gained through sensory perception and which lie beyond the sphere of ordinary science.
In regard to the human being, self-knowledge is undoubtedly a problem which must appeal to us most of all. For in order to gain a foundation and a firm standpoint in life, we must first obtain a conception of our own nature. And it must be said that at all times people have sought to gain a knowledge of the universe, for they knew that the mysteries of the world's evolution are connected with man's own being; they knew that they could only learn something about man's being by seeking to know what the universe is able to give them, the universe of which the human being forms part.
Moreover, it cannot be denied that in connection with a knowledge of man and of the universe modern people show a deep interest for everything which transcends ordinary science, and we may say that innumerable attempts are now being made to transcend the spheres of ordinary science in order to investigate what lies beyond birth and death, beyond the world which can be fathomed by ordinary sense-perception and by the understanding which is based upon it.
In recent times we can observe above all that there are scientific investigators who in many ways endeavor to transcend the spheres indicated above, and as an introduction let me mention a few striking conceptions of modern investigators, examples which prove that the keen interest in the problems which will form the subject of my three lectures really exists, but which prove at the same time how very difficult it is, even in the case of people well grounded in science, to penetrate into the sphere of the soul and of the spirit. As I do not wish to speak in abstract terms, let me proceed immediately from concrete examples.
A German scientist who worked very hard to discover how to penetrate into the supersensible nature of the soul, and how to investigate the influence exercised by the soul's supersensible nature upon the body's physical nature, tried to give many examples taken from his medical and scientific experience, showing the soul's influence, the influence of an unquestionably psychic essence upon the body. A marked example contained in one of the books written by this physician and scientist named Schleich, who was personally well known to me, is the following. He describes a patient who came to him in a great state of excitement, because in the office he had pricked his skin with an inky nib. The doctor could ascertain that it was quite an insignificant scratch. But the patient was under the delusion that this prick with an inky nib had given him a blood poisoning and that he would have to die unless his hand was amputated, and he begged the doctor to amputate his hand, his arm, as quickly as possible.
The doctor could only tell him to be calm, that he would be quite well again in a couple of days and that there was nothing to be afraid of. As a responsible doctor he had to tell him this and could not, of course, amputate his arm.
But the patient was not satisfied. He went to another doctor, who told him exactly the same thing and also refused to amputate his arm. Schleich was nevertheless nervous, for he was acquainted with soul-moods, and so he enquired the next day how the patient was feeling, and he was told that the man had died.
The autopsy did not reveal any trace of blood-poisoning or similar symptoms. This was out of the question. Yet the patient had died.
In connection with this case, Schleich remarks: Death caused by radical auto-suggestion.
The patient had the fixed idea that he had to die; it was an extremely radical auto-suggestion, and he really did die under its influence.
This is the statement of an investigator well acquainted with all the natural-scientific methods, with all the medical methods. He reports this case in order to show a purely psychical influence, i.e. the influence of a thought, upon bodily processes, an influence showing, according to Schleich, that death set in as a result.
Schleich mentions many other cases, less marked and radical, in order to prove that it is possible to observe the soul, living in thoughts, feelings, sensations, and will-impulses, and that the soul can really influence the body. He wishes to describe, as it were, the influence of the supersensible upon the physical.
Another case is described by a far more conspicuous scientist, by Sir Oliver Lodge. Sir Oliver Lodge lost his son Raymond in the last war. He fell on the Belgian-German frontier, and Oliver Lodge, who had long ago felt the inclination to build a bridge leading from the sensory-natural-scientific sphere to the supersensible sphere, was deeply stirred by the loss of his beloved son. Through many incidents, which are not directly connected with this matter and which I need not relate, he was induced to use the mediumistic power of a certain person, in order to enter into connection with the departed soul of his son, Raymond.
When such a case arises in ordinary spiritistic circles, it is not necessary to consider it seriously, for one knows how unscientific these meetings are, and how amateurishly and unscientifically such cases are judged and investigated in them. But the matter must be taken more seriously when we have to do with one of the greatest of modern scientists, with a man so thoroughly at home in the sphere of external, natural-scientific research and so well acquainted with scientific methods. That is why Oliver Lodge's book on his spiritual intercourse with his son, Raymond, made such a deep impression on the world.
On reading this book, we immediately feel that it is written by a man who does not approach the investigation of such things superficially, but by a conscientious and responsible scientist. Even in other things, which I will not mention here, one can see that Oliver Lodge applies to this sphere the same way of thinking, the same scientific method, which he is accustomed to apply in his physical laboratory. The real facts which he relates, and which, one might say, rightly produced such a deep impression upon all those who read Sir Oliver Lodge's book, are as follows :
Through the medium in question, Oliver Lodge and a few other people who were present at the seances were told that his son, that is, the soul, the spirit, of Oliver Lodge's son, wished to describe a scene enacted on the Belgian-German frontier shortly before his death, and the medium related that Raymond Lodge had a photograph taken and described this act in detail. It was expressly stated that two photographs were taken; these two photographs were carefully described and attention was drawn to the fact that upon the second photograph Sir Oliver Lodge's son had a somewhat different pose from that on the first one.
When these communications were made in London through the medium (Sir Oliver Lodge describes it so that one can really see — I emphasize this expressly — that he took every possible scientific precaution), at the time when these experiments were made, no one in London knew anything about these photographs, nor that they had been taken. After examining all the facts, Sir Oliver Lodge came to the conclusion that if this message were true, it could only come from his son, from the departed son himself.
In fact, after two or three weeks, the photographs which no one had seen before really arrived in London. They corresponded with the description given by the medium, or, as Sir Oliver Lodge believed, with the description given by the soul of his son. Even a scientist could see in this fact, to begin with, one might say, “experimentum cruris.” Nobody in London could possibly have seen the photographs. It appeared that the description was correct even in regard to the fact that two photographs were taken and that the second one shows a difference. The photographer had taken the photograph of the group which included Raymond Lodge twice, and for the second photograph he had shifted his camera a little. All this had been described exactly. A conscientious scientist could not find the slightest reason for questioning the medium's communication.
The two radical cases I have described to you show that the longing, the great desire, of unquestionably serious modern scientists lead them to seek a knowledge which goes beyond the facts revealed by ordinary external scientific research.
But one who speaks of the foundations of anthroposophical research, one who speaks from an anthroposophical standpoint, must draw attention to the fact that the methods of this investigation differ from those adopted even by such serious-minded scientists. For, in regard to a scientific way of thinking and a scientific mentality, the foundations of anthroposophical research (I hope that my three lectures will make things clear to you from every aspect) should be stricter and more conscientious than any other, even in comparison with such strict scientists as the above. And one who ventures to criticize such great scientists is perhaps first called upon to judge and to explain the far greater certainty constituting the foundation of Anthroposophy, which is so often accused of advancing fantastic notions; this certainty given by Anthroposophy is far greater than that transmitted by the most conscientious scientific investigators of the present time. In order to indicate the critical attitude, the earnest and truly scientific character, of Anthroposophy and its foundations, let me first bring forward the critical objections which can be raised against the scientific interpretations given in the two above-mentioned examples.
Let me now begin with these things, for in connection with today's subject my last two lectures already contained many explanations, so that the essential facts are known to the great majority of those who are now present; allow me therefore briefly to illumine the things already explained to you from another angle.
The following objection must be raised in regard to Schleich and his case of “death through auto-suggestion.” Please accept this, to begin with, as a simple critical objection showing how matters might also be viewed! Let us suppose that the man who pricked his hand with an inky nib and who believed that he had blood poisoning, really had some unknown inner defect, so that sudden death through a natural cause would have arisen in any case during the night after the accident. Such cases of sudden death really exist. On the other hand, all those who seriously investigate what can be achieved by a strengthening and intensification of human cognitive powers in the direction which I tried to indicate during the last few days know that certain undefined soul-forces may be driven to a special climax through some abnormal conditions, through — one can really say — abnormal pathological conditions. Such cases undoubtedly exist and are critically described in books, so that everyone can test them, whenever the human will (and we shall see how this is possible) becomes transformed and thus attains cognitive power. Since the human will is directed toward the future, it is able, under certain pathological conditions, to have a premonition of events which prepare themselves, of events which will take place in the future out of the whole connections of a person's life. It is a matter of indifference whether we call this a foreboding, or whether we give it any other name. But it is a fact that under certain pathological conditions of a lighter nature, which do not clearly appear in the form of illness, a person may foresee, in the form of a picture, that he will, for instance, in fourteen days be thrown from his horse. All precautions will be useless, for he cannot perceive the accompanying circumstances. He has simply had a foreboding, he has simply foreseen an event about to take place.
The critical objection which must be raised by one who really knows the spiritual connections of man in a deeper sense is that in the case of Schleich's patient, the factors which brought about his sudden death on the following night can simply have already existed and that he had had an inner presentiment of his approaching death. Such a presentiment need not be fully conscious; it can quite well remain in the subconscious depths of the soul. But its influence upon consciousness manifests itself in symptoms which can be designated as nervousness and restlessness. One does all manner of unpremeditated things, and it is quite possible to prick one's finger with an inky nib under the influence of the nervousness arising from such a premonition. The person in question therefore simply knew unconsciously (let me use this paradoxical expression) that he would die. He did not clothe this in the statement that he had a presentiment of his death, but he grew nervous, pricked his hand with the nib and clung to the belief that he would have to die through blood poisoning. Thus it was not a case of death through auto-suggestion, but the man in question had had a presentiment of his coming death and all his actions were determined by this. In that case Schleich simply mistakes cause and effect: there is no auto-suggestion, as Schleich supposes, to the effect that a conscious thought exercised so strong a suggestion that death ensued; but death would have arisen in any case, and the death-presentiment was the cause of the patient's fixed idea.
You see, even such things can be viewed critically, if another, undoubtedly possible, thing is borne in mind: namely, that certain subconscious conditions, which always exist in the soul, faintly rise to the surface of ordinary consciousness, but masked. In the unconscious depths of the human soul many conscious manifestations have quite a different aspect, and ordinary consciousness simply gives them a different interpretation.
Let us now turn to the other case, that of Sir Oliver Lodge. Undoubtedly you are all acquainted with the phenomenon known as “second sight.” Through an intensification of the human cognitive forces it is possible to perceive things which cannot be perceived by the ordinary sound senses — it is possible, as it were, to see things in a way which is not in keeping with the ordinary conditions of environing space, so that this perceptive faculty can, so to speak, transcend space and time. This fact supplies the critical objection which must be raised even against the conscientiousness of an Oliver Lodge. For Sir Oliver Lodge uses this experimentum crucis in order to prove that his son's soul and none other must have spoken to him from the Beyond. But those who know the fine and intimate way in which second sight works, and that under certain abnormal conditions the intimate character of such a perceptive capacity is really able to overcome space and time (mediums always possess this perceptive faculty, though in the great majority of cases this is not to their advantage), those who are acquainted with this fact also know that a person endowed with second sight can go to the point of giving a description as in the case of Sir Oliver Lodge's son, a description which may be characterized as follows:
The two photographs arrived in London two or three weeks after the séance. The attention of the people who were present at the séance was turned toward these pictures, that is to something pertaining to the future. And this fact pertaining to the future could be interpreted by a kind of second sight which the medium possessed.
In that case, it can no longer be said that Raymond Lodge's soul shone supersensibly into the room where Sir Oliver Lodge was making his experiments. Here, we simply have to do with something enacted completely upon the physical plane, that is to say, with a vision of the future surpassing the ordinary perceptive capacity, but which does not justify the belief that a soul from beyond the threshold manifested itself in the séance room.
I mention these two examples and the objections against them, in order to awaken in you a feeling for the conscientiousness and for the critical attitude of anthroposophical spiritual research. The spiritual investigation practiced in Anthroposophy does not at first proceed from any abnormal phenomena (the two last lectures proved this), but from completely normal conditions of human life, which appear in the forces of cognition, of the will, and of feeling. Anthroposophical research seeks to develop these forces which enable one to gain a knowledge of the supersensible worlds, in order to be, as it were, inwardly entitled to this knowledge, and in order to gain the true conscientiousness required in a training which strengthens thought.
Meditation exercises, such as those recently described to you, strengthen our thought to a high degree, so that our way of thinking becomes just as alive and intensive as sensory perception. Then there are the will exercises which I have already mentioned to you, and which will be characterized more fully in these lectures. Will-exercises require above all an intensive observation of normal life: we must become quite familiar with the conditions in which we normally live.
A short time ago a scientist published a brief resume of the science of Anthroposophy inaugurated by me. This man is in no way a blind believer. He briefly recapitulates what I have been giving you as Anthroposophy, a material which already constitutes a voluminous literature. He recapitulates it, at the same time declaring that he is neither for nor against Anthroposophy — but then he makes a remark which has the semblance of being that of a strong opponent, although the author is neither an opponent nor a follower. I must confess that this cutting remark pleased me exceedingly, particularly if seen in the light in which Anthroposophy appears in comparison with the rest of modern culture. The writer remarks that in the light of ordinary consciousness many of my statements produce an irresistibly comical effect. I must admit that I like this remark for the following simple reason: When things are mentioned, such as Sir Oliver Lodge's case, or the other case reported by me, people prick up their ears, because in a certain way this appeals to their sensationalism and because it differs from what they are accustomed to hear.
This does not seem irresistibly comical to them. But when an Anthroposophist is obliged to establish a connection with altogether normal and human things, with human memory, or with the ordinary expressions of the human will, and explains that through certain exercises human thought may be intensified and that through self-education the will can be developed so that one changes and is able to penetrate as a transformed human being into the supersensible world — and because he uses ordinary words designating things which ordinarily surround us, words which people do not like to apply to anything else — then he may produce an “irresistibly comical effect.” Many things therefore have such an irresistibly comical effect on people who only wish to apply the words to things to which they are applied in ordinary life. To an anthroposophical spiritual investigator, such views on Anthroposophy frequently appear like a letter which someone is supposed to read, but instead of reading it, begins to make a chemical analysis of the ink with which it is written. I must confess that many statements on Anthroposophy really appear to me as if a person were to analyze the ink used in writing a letter, instead of reading it.
The essential point in the foundations of Anthroposophy is that one starts from completely normal human experiences, that one has a good knowledge of modern scientific truths, of modern ethical life, and develops these very things more intensively, so that one can penetrate into the higher worlds through an intensification of the cognitive forces which already exist less intensely in ordinary life and in science. One must of course have an understanding for these ordinary human experiences. One must pay attention to thoroughly ordinary normal experiences, which, however, we are not very much interested in observing carefully. Things must, so to speak, become enigmas and problems. Although they form part of ordinary life, one easily fails to see their enigmatic character. And here already begins for many people the “irresistibly comical effect,” that is, when one begins to say: The questions connected with man's alternating conditions of waking and sleeping must above all be looked upon as enigmas.
During our life we continually change over from the condition of waking to that of sleeping, but we do not take much notice of this pendulum of life, swaying between the conditions of waking and sleeping. The strangest theories have been advanced in this connection. I might talk for a long time were I to mention some of these theories relating to the alternating conditions of waking and sleeping. But let me mention only one, the most well-known and usual one, namely that one simply takes for granted that when the human being is awake he gets tired and when he is sufficiently tired goes to sleep, and that sleep in its turn counter-balances fatigue. Sleep (this can be described in one or the other way, more or less materialistically) eliminates the causes of fatigue.
I should like to know if radical supporters of this theory can really say that fatigue is the cause of sleep, when for instance they observe a person who really has no cause whatever for getting tired during the day — let us say, a fat gentleman living on private means, who goes to a more or less solid concert or to a lecture, not late in the evening, but in the afternoon, and who falls asleep not after the first five minutes, but after two minutes!
These things at first may really present a slightly comical aspect, but if they are viewed from every side, their earnest enigmatic character must stand before our soul. Those who believe that the alternating conditions of waking and sleeping can be studied with the aid of the ordinary scientific methods applied today will never reach a satisfactory solution of this problem. Even such completely normal questions of life cannot be approached with the ordinary cognitive forces, but with a thinking intensified by meditation, concentration, and other soul exercises described in my book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and in my Outline of Occult Science, and also with transformed forces of the will.
What is attained when we try to strengthen thought by earnest meditation? I already explained to you that meditation must begin by strengthening thought to such an extent that it becomes a transformed memory. Our ordinary memory contains inner pictures which reproduce the experiences of our ordinary earthly life since our birth. Through memory, the picture of some real event stands before the soul, and that our soul-life is healthily connected with the external world in which we live is guaranteed by the fact that we do not somehow mix up things fantastically, but that our memory-pictures indicate things which really existed.
We must therefore come to the point of being able to place before our soul, in the imaginative understanding described in the last few days, pictures which resemble our ordinary memory pictures. These pictures simply arise by our more and more bringing meditation concepts into our consciousness, and thus strengthening the soul-faculty of thinking, just as a muscle is made strong through exercise. We must reach the point of strengthening thinking to such an extent that it can live within its own content, in the same way in which we ordinarily live within our sense-experiences through our senses.
When such exercises have been made for a sufficiently long time, when we really attain to such a living way of thinking, then something develops which may be designated as a plastic form-giving, morphological way of thinking. Our thinking then contains a living essence, it has a living content which can ordinarily only be found in sense-perception. In that case we begin to notice something new. What modern natural science brings to the fore is a source of regret to many; it constitutes materialism. But Anthroposophy, which aims through its methods at penetrating into the supersensible worlds, must in a certain sphere become thoroughly “materialistic,” stimulated in the right way by modern science.
This is the case if we learn to strengthen our thinking in the right way, if we can have before us, in imaginative thought, images which are just as alive as sense-perceptions and with which we deal just as freely as with sensory perceptions. When we perceive something through our senses we know unmistakably that we see red or hear the note C sharp and that these are impressions which come to us from the external world, not impressions which rise out of our own soul. In the same way we know through imaginative thinking that the images which rise up before us are not empty phantasms produced by the soul, but that they are a living essence within, resembling sensory perception.
When we inwardly experience this emancipation from the body, this freedom which also exists in sense-perception, we also know what constitutes memory in ordinary life. When we remember something, we always plunge into our physical body; every memory-thought is connected with a parallel physical, or at least etheric, bodily process. We learn to know the material importance of that life which constitutes the ordinary life of memory. We then no longer ascribe the contents of memory to the independent soul, as does Bergson, the French thinker, but we know that in the ordinary memory-process the soul simply dives down into the body and that the body is the instrument which conjures up our memories. Now we know that only by Imagination do we reach the stage of being able to think independently of the body, of being able to think in ordinary life only with the soul, which we never do otherwise. In ordinary life we perceive through our senses; we abstract our thoughts from the sensory perception and retain them in our memory. But this process of retaining the thoughts in memory implies that we dive down into our body.
Imaginative knowledge alone shows us the true process of memory and that of sensory perception. Imaginative knowledge shows us what it means to live in free thoughts, emancipated from the body. It also shows us what it means to dive down into the physical organism with our thoughts, when we remember something. Even as we learn to know these things through an intensification of thinking, through an enhancement and strengthening of thought by meditation, so we may learn to know through the will how to pass through a kind of self-training which leads to similar results.
In ordinary life, the will only acquires a certain value when it passes over to external action; otherwise it remains mere desire, even though we may cherish the highest ideals, the most beautiful ideals, even though we may be true idealists. The highest ideals will remain mere desires if we are not able to take hold of the external physical reality.
What characterizes a desire, a wish? It has the peculiar quality of being abstracted and withdrawn from the world of reality. Symbolically one might say: When we only have desires, this is like drawing back the feelers of the soul. We then live completely within our own being, within the soul-element. But we also know that desires are, to begin with, tinged by the human temperaments. A melancholic person will have desires which differ from those of a sanguine person. The physical foundation of desires could soon be discovered by those who investigate these matters conscientiously with the aid of natural-scientific methods. The etheric foundation of desires can therefore be seen in the temperament, but their physical conditions can be perceived in the special composition of the blood or in other qualities of the bodily constitution.
This calls for that critical attitude mentioned at the beginning of my lecture; such a critical attitude shatters, I might say, many a pleasant dream. Allow me to give you a few indications which show how such pleasant dreams can be dispelled.
I certainly do not mean to be irreverent, nor do I mean to destroy any ideal through lack of reverence, for I have a deep feeling for all the beauty contained, for instance, in the mysticism of a Saint Teresa or of a Saint John of the Cross. Do not think that I am second to anyone in admiring all the beauty contained in such mystical expressions. But those who have some experience of the special way in which, for instance, St. Teresa or St. John of the Cross produced their visions, know to what extent human desires have a share in these visions. They know that desires which live in the soul's depths have a share particularly in mystical experiences, and these desires may lead a spiritual investigator to study the bodily constitution of these mystics. Nothing is desecrated when a spiritual investigator draws attention to such things, when he indicates that in certain organs he discovers an inner state of excitement, that the nerves exercise a different influence on certain organs, thus producing a certain effect in the soul, which may even take on the beautiful aspect of the visions described by St. John of the Cross or by St. Teresa, or by other mystics of that type. We are far more on the right track if we seek the foundation of such visions, which are so beautiful and poetic in the case of St. Teresa and of St. John of the Cross, in certain bodily conditions than in the beholding of some nebulous mystery.
As I have said, I do not wish to pull to pieces something which I revere as much as any other person in this room, but the truth must be shown, and also the critical attitude derived from an anthroposophical foundation. It must be shown that an anthroposophist above all should not fall a prey to illusions. Above all, he should be free from illusion in regard to human desires which are rooted in the human organism, desires rooted in the physical human organism which flare up, come, so to speak, to boiling point, if I may use this expression, and lead to the most beautiful visions.
A person who wishes to become a spiritual investigator, in the anthroposophical sense, should not only strengthen his thinking through meditation, but he should also transform his desires through self-training.
This can be done by taking in hand systematically that which otherwise takes place as if of its own accord. Let us honestly admit that during our ordinary life we allow events to guide us far more than we ourselves guide the course of our life. In ordinary life this or that thing may influence us, and if we look back ten years into our past earthly existence, we find that the external conditions and the people whom we met unfolded within us a side of our character which now presents a different aspect from what it was like ten years ago.
A person who earnestly strives to become an anthroposophical spiritual investigator must, in this connection, also make exercises which influence the will. The ordinary will in life acquires a meaning when directed toward external actions. But an anthroposophical spiritual investigator must apply the impulses of the will to his own development, to his own life. He should be able to pursue the following aim: “In regard to this or that characteristic or expression of life, you must change, you must become different from what you were.” Though it may seem paradoxical, it is a great help if we begin to change something within us through our own initiative, through our own impulse; if we change some strongly rooted habit, or even a small trifle. I repeat that it can be something quite insignificant — for instance, one's handwriting. If someone really strives with an iron will to change his handwriting, the application of energy required for the transformation of a habit may be compared with the strengthening of a muscle, because the will is strengthened. By growing stronger and by being applied inwardly instead of outwardly, the will begins to exercise certain influences in man. The transformations in the external world once produced by the effects of the will now become transformations within human nature.
If we do exercises of the will, as described in detail in anthroposophical books, we reach the point of transforming our life of desire, so that this becomes emancipated from the human organization, even as our thinking emancipates itself from the body through meditation.
During the moments in which we live in anthroposophical research, we are no longer in a condition which may be described by saying that the wish is father to the thought. When we exercise this self-training, this application of education of oneself at a maturer age, our wishes and desires become an inner power which unites with the emancipated thinking. This leads us to a real perception of the true nature of the will-impulses in ordinary life, and to a perception of the true nature of thoughts in ordinary life. Even as we ordinarily perceive red or blue, or hear C sharp or C, so we now perceive thoughts as realities; we learn to know the will-impulses objectively, that is to say, separated from our own being.
In this way we reach the point of having a right judgment of the alternating conditions of waking and sleeping. Only by rendering thought objective through exercise, as objective as a sense-perception, so that we are no longer connected with our body as in the case of a remembered thought — only with this thinking developed in free meditation can the act of falling asleep be rightly grasped and perceived.
A person who seeks to gain insight into the normal act of falling asleep, with the aid of the ordinary cognitive forces, may set up one hypothesis after the other, but he will not be able to recognize the true nature of sleep.
This strengthened thinking which we acquire, and on the other hand our transformed desires, are those which show us that when we fall asleep we can, in a certain way, still follow the moment in which sleep takes hold of us; we look, as it were, upon the act of falling asleep and we learn to know that when we go to sleep we do not simply have before us a changed bodily condition, but that we really slip out of our body with our independent soul-life; we go out of our body and we leave something behind — namely, our thoughts.
We can leave our thoughts behind consciously when we fall asleep only because our thinking has been intensified. The thoughts remain behind with the body and fill it in the shape of formative forces. We notice that we have abandoned our body only with our feeling and with our will. But by perceiving with what part of the soul we leave the body, we obtain at the same time an objective certainty that we have an independent soul-essence and that we go out of the body with this independent soul-essence.
And now we know that what we leave behind on the bed on falling asleep is not only something which can be investigated by physiology, anatomy, and biology, but that it is permeated by the web of thoughts, This web of our thoughts must first be made strong enough, so that we can abandon it consciously, in the same way as we consciously turn our face away from colors and leave off looking at them. Through this strengthened thought we know that we leave behind on the bed our physical body and a body of forces containing thoughts which act like forces; we leave these bodies behind so that they may exist independently between falling asleep and waking up.
These thoughts, these morphological thoughts described to you in recent lectures, exist in our ordinary consciousness only as reflected images. They too have a reality, and with this reality they fill out our physical body as a special etheric body.
Now we know that when we fall asleep we abandon our sensory body and our thought body — I might also say, the physical body and the etheric body, or the physical body and the body of formative forces. We abandon these bodies with our will and with our feeling. In ordinary life our constitution does not enable our consciousness to remain clear: it is not strong enough to maintain consciousness unless it is filled out by thoughts. Consciousness, such as we have it in ordinary life and in ordinary science, must unite with the body and experience within the body the thoughts of the body; only then is it fully conscious. But when the soul goes out of the body as mere feeling and will, we ordinarily become unconscious.
But a person who attains to the Imaginative thinking referred to here recently, experiences the moment of falling asleep consciously, and he can produce conditions which resemble ordinary sleep, except that they are not unconscious, but that forces are at work within him and that he can really experience the organism of feeling and of the will — that is to say, he really experiences that part of his being which can emancipate itself from the body.
If we thus learn to know the moment of falling asleep, we also learn to know the moment of waking up. We now learn to judge that the moment of waking up really consists of two parts: Our attitude on waking up is the same as when a sense-impression is produced. Whenever we wake up, something must stimulate the soul. This need only be our own body, which has slept long enough and which produces this stimulus in its changed condition. But even as there is a stimulus in every sensory impression, so there is always a stimulus when we wake up, and this stimulus works upon our feeling, which left the body when we fell asleep. Even as the eyes and the ears perceive colors and sounds, so the emancipated soul now perceives through feeling something which is outside; the moment of waking up is a perception through feeling; we take hold of the body when we wake up. The independent will takes hold of the physical organism in the same way in which we ordinarily move an arm or a leg. Waking up really consists of these two acts.
In regard to falling asleep and waking up, we have now learned to know the alternating connection between the independent soul which leaves the body every night with its feeling and with its will, and the conditions in which the soul lives from the moment of waking up to the moment of falling asleep, when it is united with the body. Anthroposophical investigation is therefore based upon a strengthening of the capacities of thinking and of the will, so that we are able to observe and really perceive things which we ordinarily cannot perceive. And if in this way we are able to perceive the alternating conditions of sleeping and waking, we are then capable of passing on to something else.
For if we continue more and more in the exercises described in the recent lectures and indicated in detail in the books already mentioned, we come to the point that we do not always fall asleep when we leave the body, but that we can at will draw out of the body our feeling and our will and really look back upon the body. Then the human body is as objective as a desk or a table in ordinary life. We learn to know a thing only because we are no longer connected with it, no longer penetrated by it subjectively, because it stands before us as an object.
The object which stands before us when we go out of the body with the will and with the feeling is above all the physical body. Tomorrow we shall see that this perception outside the body gives us a new aspect of man's physical being. We perceive, above all, the body of formative forces, consisting of a web of thoughts, but active thoughts. We look back upon it as if it were a mirror. And then we are confronted by the strange fact that whereas formerly we were subjectively or personally connected with our thoughts, we now face this world of thoughts as if it were a photographic plate; in looking back upon our body our thoughts stand before us like a photographic plate. This is the same as the miniature reflection of the world which we ordinarily have in our eye. Even as the eye is an organ of sight through the fact that it can reproduce the world within itself, so the etheric and the physical body which remained behind become a reflecting apparatus, where something becomes reflected through the soul and spirit, whereas the eye only gives us a physical reflection of something outside. By leaving our thoughts behind in the physical body, we see through this mirror not only the web of thoughts, but also the world.
The course of soul-spiritual events can therefore be described in detail when the cognitive forces are intensified through meditation and a self-training of the will in order to gain knowledge of the supersensible worlds. Such a training enables us to develop certain conditions in which we are outside our body, but which do not resemble sleep; they constitute something which is indicated in my books as the continuity of consciousness. In higher knowledge we really go out of the body with our emancipated soul-being. We can recognize that we have left the body through the fact that the mirror of thoughts is now no longer within us, but outside. We go out of the body, yet we remain completely self-conscious, as already explained.
We are able to return into the body whenever we like; we do not fall a prey to hallucinations or visions, but we can follow the whole process with mathematical precision. Since the whole process can be observed in this way, we are also able to judge the ordinary events of earthly life when we return into the body. Now we know what it is like to dive down into the body with the emancipated soul. We not only learn to know the act of falling asleep, when we abandon the body, but now we also learn to return at will into our body with the emancipated soul.
It leaves a special impression upon us when we once experience this emancipated soul and then dive down again into the body, so that the soul becomes imprisoned by the body. The soul-spiritual world which was round about us when we were outside the body now ceases to exist for us. We feel as if this world had vanished and that the body absorbs us as we dive into it. We also learn to know what it is like to abandon the body; we see how the thoughts go away from us, for they remain with the body, and how we abandon the body with the feeling and willing part of our soul. But in abandoning our body we feel at the same time that the spiritual world begins to rise up before us.
What knowledge have we now gained? Through the processes of waking up and of falling asleep, we have learned to know birth and death. We have experienced how the human being unconsciously abandons his physical and etheric organism with his feeling and with his will and how he returns into the body when he wakes up in the morning.
When we have made the above-mentioned exercises, we grow conscious where formerly we were unconscious upon leaving our body. In full consciousness we now experience in advance a process which takes place when we die. And when we dive down into our physical body on returning from the spiritual world, when the thoughts outside vanish and once more appear as mere images, asserting themselves within the personality as something which is not real, then we learn to know the process of birth.
Whereas the ordinary scientific methods content themselves with the ordinary understanding, with ordinary thoughts which are applied to external observations and experiments that remain connected with us, anthroposophical investigation transforms the personality by rendering thought objective and by using the body as an all-embracing sense-organ. I might say that the body becomes one large eye. This eye, however, is outside and it is simultaneously a photographic plate.
The world into which we penetrate through spiritual investigation, the soul-spiritual world, now reflects itself in the external world as thought. An insight into completely normal processes, such as sleeping and waking, or birth and death, now enables us also to attain an inner vision of the soul-world: we perceive everything that pertains to the soul. Now our own experience enables us to distinguish whether what Professor Schleich designates as death through auto-suggestion was merely an unconscious representation, or whether what was described by Sir Oliver Lodge was “second sight.”
We can now recognize the attitude of a person who is not a conscious spiritual investigator but whose independent soul is thrust out of the body by some abnormal conditions. This may be due to some illness of the physical body. Let us suppose that there is a lesion in an organ; this may be quite sufficient to cause the soul-spiritual being of a person not yet capable of independent spiritual vision to be driven out of the physical body not because he falls asleep, but owing to a pathological condition of the body, so that he now obtains an imperfect perception of things which a spiritual investigator perceives consciously and methodically.
We need not deny the truth of the abnormal observations which are interesting those people today who wish to go beyond the sphere of ordinary, trivial facts. But we can look upon such abnormal observations critically, and such a critical attitude is due to the fact that the spiritual science of Anthroposophy is not the caricature which many people suppose it to be, but by awakening special spiritual forces and by fully recognizing the scientific conscientious method acquired by humanity in the course of the past centuries, it endeavours to rise up to the supersensible worlds. And since the human being is connected with the supersensible worlds with the innermost, immortal kernel of his being, spiritual investigation alone can recognize man's mortal and immortal essence. This will be explained more fully in tomorrow's lecture.
Through the fact that the human being dives down into his eternal part, that he does not only build up an anthropology transmitting a knowledge which can only be gained through the physical body, but through the fact that he builds up an Anthroposophy, transmitting a knowledge which man as independent being obtains through his soul and spirit, through this fact the human being really learns to know the world in its true aspect.
The task of my next two lectures will be to describe the true being of man, his immortal, everlasting being, and the true aspect of the universe, from the standpoint indicated today.